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January 22, 2010 2:11 PM   Subscribe

11 things you didn't know about pinball. Worth it for the picture on #3 alone.
posted by shakespeherian (83 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
And, to this day, it is illegal to play pinball on Sundays in Ocean City, N.J.

Umm, having spent a lot of quarters at arcades on the boardwalk, I don't think that is true. Or at least it certainly isn't enforced.

Still a dry town, though. :(

I had no idea pinball had such a shady reputation, cool link.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:18 PM on January 22, 2010


(That deaf dumb and blind sure can play some mean pinbaaaaawl!)

Did I do it right?
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 2:18 PM on January 22, 2010


And when Tommy, The Who's pinball-wizard-themed rock opera album came out in 1972, pinball was still banned in much of the country. The album's use of pinball is largely misunderstood by today's audiences who may view the deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard as quirky.

1969.
posted by Tube at 2:23 PM on January 22, 2010


The orchestral version was first performed in 1972, though. Apparently.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:26 PM on January 22, 2010


Pat Lawlor and George Gomez are going to be pretty pissed that they called Pinball 2000 a "Pinball Video-Game Hybrid". The whole idea was that people hated hybrid games, and that Pinball 2000 games were still real pinball.

The "shady" reputation wasn't unjustified. The early flipperless machines often were used for gambling, in a similar manner as slot machines.
posted by ecurtz at 2:27 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


"For amusement purposes only"
posted by aspo at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was very young, my father owned a tavern in an Indiana farmtown. It had to be closed on Sundays due to the local blue laws, so every other week we'd go up there to clean the place.

I have some favorite memories: the tabletop Space Invaders (I was a cheap date, I would 'play' it whether I put quarters in it or not), the balcony/stage above the bar where I could go scrounge for change (a hold-over from when the bar had dancers under a previous owner, there was NO WAY my mother would let that happen when my family owned it), and the pinball machines.

There were two kinds of pinball machines, the normal kind we're familiar with, and the gambling kind, which, like the early machine described in this article, didn't have any controls. You fired off your ball and hoped it landed into a hole that would pay off. At some point he had to get rid of these, I'm not sure if they were confiscated or if he was tipped off and got them out in time. (Makes me wonder why my mother would let those slide..)

I remember being pretty confused by pinball at first. I tried to ask my older brother "how does the ball know where to go?", but as soon as it was out of my mouth I knew I wasn't expressing my real question. I was, in a 5-year-old's way, trying to get an explanation for seemingly random movements: why when you launch a ball twice with the same apparent force it'll go in different directions. The frustration of being unable to express my question, and in fact the way the question would slip away when I tried to examine it, has always stuck with me.

Later, my family would vacation at a campsite on Lake Michigan, and there was always a pinball machine at the camp store. Some kid would be there every night with dozens of credits built up. He'd let me play one in exchange for a quarter. I never got the match or otherwise earned an extra ball.

Finally, I had an aunt who would housesit for the inventors of a famous card game. Sometimes my mother and I would spend the night at their big house or their Florida condo. They had a gameroom with a real full-sized pinball machine. I played it all night, and could barely move my hands the next morning.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 2:31 PM on January 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's not surprising that the Addams Family pinball game is the all-time bestseller. It's a fantastic pinball game, made at the peak of Bally's creative prowess - I still like their Star Wars pinball more, but the Addams game is probably the better design.
posted by mightygodking at 2:36 PM on January 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Holy cow is that Roman Polanski filming Guido Sarducci with Sam Waterson behind Nikita Khrushchev next to Garrison Keillor playing pinball in #6?
Because I'm pretty sure it is.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:36 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only pinball machine we owned had flippers - thus I question calling pinballs one-armed-bandits, a designation which better fits the non-electronic slot machines.
posted by Cranberry at 2:41 PM on January 22, 2010


Xenon was the best pinball machine ever.
posted by birdherder at 2:43 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does anyone still play computer pinball? Do I have to put that on AskMe?
posted by Cranberry at 2:43 PM on January 22, 2010


I learned the term "teabagging" from pinball, believe it or not. My ex-boss and I used to play a lot of pinball when we were on the road. I hadn't seen him in a while and I asked him what he was up to. I knew he was staying in downtown Seattle and playing pinball at Shorty's. We were both big fans of Funhouse. This would have been about 1995.

"I've been teabaggin' Rudy," was his strange response. For those not familiar, "Rudy" is an animatronic head inside the machine. If you manage to shoot a pinball into his open mouth you score a million points.
posted by Tube at 2:44 PM on January 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you get the chance, check out Tilt, the movie ecurtz linked to above.

There are only two Pinball 2000 games, Revenge from Mars and Star Wars Episode 1 (both of which are a lot of fun). The third was going to be a sequel to the Playboy game pictured in the article.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:48 PM on January 22, 2010


McSweeney's have a monthly pinball column which surprised me. I didn't realise there was still a vibrant pinball scene.
posted by minifigs at 2:53 PM on January 22, 2010



These Premises Are Alarmed: There were two kinds of pinball machines, the normal kind we're familiar with, and the gambling kind, which, like the early machine described in this article, didn't have any controls. You fired off your ball and hoped it landed into a hole that would pay off.

If you ever wonder whatever happened to this type of pinball, its closest living relative is probably pachinko (which could probably sustain an FPP of its own).
posted by mhum at 3:01 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a time in my youth when this machine was completely my bitch. I'd drink vanilla milkshakes while racking up countless free games in a dusty corner of a little diner in my hometown. I'll never forget the "clunk" sound of the credit number rolling over.
posted by davebush at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2010


Addams Family was a great pinball machine, but my personal favorite was Funhouse. It has a creepy talking dummy head named Rudy that watched the ball and makes comments as you play. The best part, to get multiball you had to hit him in the face a few times to get him to open his mouth and then get a ball or two in there. Then when you trigger multiball he would cough up the extra balls. Hilarious.
posted by batou_ at 3:05 PM on January 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I just bought Bally's Mystic off craigslist for $300. This pinball captured my imagination in 1981 as a 10 year old. And now I own it. That is all.
posted by punkfloyd at 3:11 PM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love me some pinball promo videos. A few faves...

Judge Dredd - Great early 90's rawk guitars. I recall this machine had a hilarious "Move your car!" sequence.

Addams Family - The classic.

Start Trek:TNG - God I loved this game. Getting the Warp Factor into the 9.x's was incredibly intense.
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:18 PM on January 22, 2010


One question about the Tommy thing: was pinball outlawed in Britain too?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:33 PM on January 22, 2010


Did I do it right?

Almost, kid, almost.
posted by bwg at 3:41 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related: in episode 5 of Robert Ashley's podcast A Life Well Wasted, he talks to pinball designer Steve Richie—"the best selling pinball designer of all time".
(it's the final interview of the podcast)
posted by blueberry at 3:56 PM on January 22, 2010


I was well aware of all eleven of these factoids. But then, I do work at the best pinball hall in Seattle. Good list though, anything to encourage more pinball playing.
posted by Jawn at 4:04 PM on January 22, 2010


If you're ever in Las Vegas, check out the Pinball Hall of Fame. We can't wait to go to Las Vegas again...we spent hours and hours there, as well as about $100 in quarters. At night it's the greatest thing to see and hear...we thought it was more fun than slots (hey, we're nerds!). They just moved to a new location, so they should have more games there next time.

My husband loves the vintage games, while I like the newer ones...I was quite enamored with the Stargate game. The cool thing is that they all work and are kept in great shape. That was always my lament as a child...finding the lone pinball machine somewhere and it had poor rubber or just didn't plain work.
posted by Calzephyr at 4:05 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And oh yeah, picture #3 is great! The museum actually has a bingo type pinball game that takes nickels. You keep feeding the machine and shooting balls and hope for a payout (the museum won't pay out no matter how you beg though :-))
posted by Calzephyr at 4:09 PM on January 22, 2010


Yes Cranberry, some people still play computer pinball (when they can't get their hands on a real machine) Visual Pinball and Future Pinball are the two most popular.
posted by ecurtz at 4:16 PM on January 22, 2010


Man I was a total pinbball junkie. Me and my mate used to play for hours, and get credits from the milk bar owner for running to the TAB to but bets on for him. Fuh who needs study. Williams machines were the best by far. I still love to play.
posted by mattoxic at 4:17 PM on January 22, 2010


Fireball was the game - it was all about learning that wheel. Its too bad pinball doesn't translate well to video games, but it all but impossible to give the player the proper field of view -- a static top-down view is too small and distant, and no one has been able to make a "smart-camera" that works well.
posted by rtimmel at 4:20 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the worst ripoffs I remember experiencing as a kid was discovering that pinball machines had gone from a whopping 5 balls for a quarter to only a measly 3. And THEN they went up to fifty cents a game!

This was my favorite, Xenon.
posted by misha at 4:23 PM on January 22, 2010


There is huge amounts of pinball information available on the internet, because pinball people tend to be nerds. If you're interested in learning more about the industry (sadly still in decline) I strongly recommend TOPcast, which has interviews with designers, artists, collectors, and anyone else they can dig up. The most recent episode was part one of an interview with Pat Lawlor, designer of the above mentioned Funhouse (my personal favorite as well), Twilight Zone, and Addams Family.
posted by ecurtz at 4:29 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The one that pulled me in was Austin Powers. It's not the best game, but the Dr. Evil quotes cracked me up. Plus if you shot the ball up the ramp and into the toilet seat, you'd get a random Fat Bastard quote.

The games I remember most fondly are Arabian Nights and Cactus Canyon. Arabian Nights used magnets in interesting ways and in one special round, you had to hit the genie (eliciting angry bellows, very satisfying). Cactus Canyon had a special round where you had to knock down some standups that were very close to the flippers, and it was always satisfying to finish off one of those.

I love the sound some machines make when you win an extra game or get a match. It's like a couple of very dense and polished pieces of wood being slammed together. It's loud but not piercing, and is exactly the special and important type of noise that should go along with winning a free game.
posted by A dead Quaker at 4:38 PM on January 22, 2010


I had a mentor who was a respected composer of experimental music, who was known for being an outspoken anti-capitalist, the kind who criticize the activist movements of the '60s for being bourgeois. When this man died, I was payed by his estate to find contact information for his past students and collaborators. Among the various essays and dissertations and reviews I ended up reading as I got distracted from this task, there was a paper on applying the standard practices of experimental composition to the making of music and sound effects for pinball machines. This was a side of experimental composition that, given my immersion in the ideas of my ex-mentor, I was quite surprised to see. This man had talked about experimental music as a form of opposition to capital and a revolutionary act, and here was one of his former students applying this practice which my mentor made out to be a nearly sacrosanct thing in order to make a machine designed to encourage people to put quarters in it.
posted by idiopath at 4:41 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]



Does anyone still play computer pinball? Do I have to put that on AskMe?



I still do. I love pinball and have been an addict my whole life. When other kids played PacMan I was at the pinball game whopping butt.
posted by SuzySmith at 4:43 PM on January 22, 2010


"Keep the ball, I've got a whole bucket full!"
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 4:49 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pinball machines had to have some fairly quirky options in order to deal with laws that varied from state to state. You had to be able to turn off free games and offer "add a ball" - free game awards are gambling, add a ball is not.

I also believe that many machines had the option to install ticket dispensers for "winning".
posted by plinth at 5:03 PM on January 22, 2010


That was some cool info to learn for a Friday afternoon. I never knew the flippers weren't originally a part of the machine. tilting and bumping the machines must of been a pain in the a$$
posted by rateit at 5:03 PM on January 22, 2010


I'll never forget the "clunk" sound of the credit number rolling over.
This. I would love to have a .wav of this to replace the stupid Windows error beep with something POSITIVE.

Spent many hours in the mid 70s playing in local bowling alleys. One machine, oddly in a department store, would roll over the thousands digit (yup, analog counters) with a well-placed bang on the glass. Also, the pinball-based interjection TILT!!! is probably gone from the language now, used to connote "trying to scam the system and getting caught".
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:05 PM on January 22, 2010


My all-time fave is Williams's High Speed. A classic modern machine that marked an innovation in multi-ball play -- and without the gizmo overkill and stratospheric scoring of later tables.
posted by grounded at 5:20 PM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have fond (if vague) memories of playing pinball at the bar at age 4-6 or so when the softball team would go out after my Mom's games. That would have been Albany, NY 77-79. I had no idea pinball was that recently a newly accepted pastime. I was apparently reasonably good for my age as I wasn't quite strong enough to set off the tilt detector on that particular machine allowing me to really go at it with enthusiasm.
posted by meinvt at 5:27 PM on January 22, 2010


The only pinball game i ever played regularly was Pinbot, because it was in the dorm lounge where I lived in college for three years.

I never did manage to roll the score on it, unlike many of my dormmates, but it sure was fun. Well, when it was working. It was owned by the dorm and kept up by students (the quarters went to beer). Luckily it was an engineering school, so finding someone to replace a solenoid wasn't all that difficult.
posted by flaterik at 5:48 PM on January 22, 2010


Does anyone have the description of pinball from Foucault's Pendulum? I'm having trouble googling it.
posted by Phssthpok at 5:55 PM on January 22, 2010


Dig pinball? Got a console or PSP? Run, don't walk, to get yourself a copy of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection, which is all kinds of awesome.

I'd been rocking the Wii version for years (the Nunchuck/WiiMote combo works great), but the PS3/360 versions give you HD visuals (Rudy from Funhouse has never looked better) and three new tables -- Arabian Nights, Medieval Madness (featuring voiceover work from Tina Fey!) and the post-Caddyshack title No Good Gofers. Only $30 through Amazon. Grab it like a rabbit!

PSP version is no slouch either.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:17 PM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I bet after they outlawed it (thus ensuring it would only show up in places which were willing to abide illegal behavior,) they used the fact that it was found in seedy places as further proof that outlawing it (and keeping it outlawed) was a good idea in the first place.
posted by blenderfish at 6:40 PM on January 22, 2010


Twilight Zone was good too.
posted by hypersloth at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2010


The best fake pinball ever is Metroid Prime Pinball on the Nintendo DS.

I'd be out playing real pinball right now except I have to finish my stupid mefi mix cd
posted by aubilenon at 7:09 PM on January 22, 2010


I don't know much about pinball, haven't played in years, and never did play much at all, but I knew that the Addams Family was #1, and I have not idea how I knew that.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 7:11 PM on January 22, 2010


Metafilter: has ruined more young minds than pinball and syphilis combined.
posted by chrchr at 7:14 PM on January 22, 2010


You know what? Fuck it, I'll just finish the mix at stupid o'clock. Cousin Itt isn't going to hit himself!
posted by aubilenon at 7:23 PM on January 22, 2010


I love the idea of the Twilight Zone one -- a board filled with magnets to warp the ball's path, except for on the random occasions when you happened to get the ceramic ball that was not only lighter and faster, but non-magnetic? That blew my mind when I first heard about it. Wish I knew of anywhere I could go to play it.
posted by rifflesby at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2010


Does anyone have the description of pinball from Foucault's Pendulum? I'm having trouble googling it.
FILENAME: Pinball

You don't play pinball with just your hands, you play it with the groin too. The pinball problem is not to stop the ball before it's swallowed by the mouth at the bottom, or to kick it back to midfield like a halfback. The problem is to make it stay up where the lighted targets are more numerous and have it bounce from one to another, wandering, confused, delirious, but still a free agent. And you achieve this not by jolting the ball but by transmitting vibrations to the case, the frame, but gently, so the machine won't catch on and say Tilt. You can only do it with the groin, or with a play of the hips that makes the groin not so much bump, as slither, keeping you on this side of an orgasm. And if the hips move according to nature, it's the buttocks that supply the forward thrust, but gracefully, so that when the thrust reaches the pelvic area, it is softened, as in homeopathy, where the more you shake a solution and the more the drug dissolves in the water added gradually, until the drug has almost entirely disappeared, the more medically effective and potent it is. Thus from the groin an infinitesimal pulse is transmitted to the case, and the machine obeys, the ball moves against nature, against inertia, against gravity, against the laws of dynamics, and against the cleverness of its constructor, who wanted it disobedient. The ball is intoxicated with vis movendi, remaining in play for memorable and immemorial lengths of time. But a female groin is required, one that interposes no spongy body between the ileum and the machine, and there must be no erectile matter in between, only skin, nerves, padded bone sheathed in a pair of jeans, and a sublimated erotic fury, a sly frigidity, a disinterested adaptability to the partner's response, a taste for arousing desire without suffering the excess of one's own: the Amazon must drive the pinball crazy and savor the thought that she will then abandon it.
posted by maqsarian at 7:36 PM on January 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yep, as Umberto Eco and (and the authorities, maybe on a subconscious level) realized, pinball is all about sex. (I googled "pinball equals sex" and got the Eco quote on this page.)

Having spent the better part of my youth hanging around arcades, always on the lookout for the legendary Fireball, when Springsteen sang "And me I just got tired of hanging in them dusty arcades banging them pleasure machines"
boy, I knew exactly what he was talking about. There's a visceral, physical quality to a good pinball session that video games have never captured, to me at least.
posted by Bron at 8:03 PM on January 22, 2010


7 Things Not Mentioned In This Pinball Article That Should Have Been

1: Pinball is directly descended from lawn bowling, similar to skeeball. A ball would be hucked up or rolled down a hill that had divots placed in it, the divots representing different scores. Louis XIV played it at Versailles. This evolved into a tabletop game for indoor play, called bagatelle.

2: Bagatelle was a popular gambling game, and spread amongst the wealthy both in Europe and the American colonies. The gambling aspect stayed with the game as it grew, and most pinball games dispensed tickets that were redeemable for prizes or money—hence the ban.

3: The first flippers were anchored so that they flipped the ball to the inside, rather than to the outside like they do today.

4: Until the mid-'70s, scantily clad women were practically mandatory for pinball backglass. Pinball was seen as exclusively a men's game, and the idea of women playing it was scandalous.

5: Not only has Playboy magazine (by dint of pinhead Hefner) produced three Playboy pinball games, one of the first widely popular Gottlieb games, Slick Chicks, was based on the magazine, with two bunny-eared women adorning the back glass.

6: One of the best modern pinball games never made it to wide production. Big Bang Bar, a Capcom space sleaze game, favorite of National Pinball Museum curator David Silverman, has had several abortive starts and fits, but has never been produced widely, making it the most popular cult pinball game.

7: The failure of pinball games was in large part linked to the skill differential between novices and experts. As pinball is a generally portable skill—you're good at one pinball game and you can get good at pretty much any other—it became too easy for "wizards" to get free game after free game, leading to a ramped-up algorithm, which then denied novices the rewards that kept them playing.
posted by klangklangston at 8:16 PM on January 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


porn in the woods: "Run, don't walk, to get yourself a copy of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection, which is all kinds of awesome."

Seconding this - the tables come with a menu-based option to see a Williams sales flyer for the tables!

Gorgar, Black Knight, Pinbot, Funhouse, all mentioned upthread.

I would love to see a virtual Addams Family, and something like the Williams collection for at LEAST Bally, for that matter. Finally, I'll note that playing virtually dramatically accelerated my real-world ball-control skill, as rudimentary as it remains.
posted by mwhybark at 8:16 PM on January 22, 2010


Bummer, looks to me on a quick scrub that Visual Pinball and Future Pinball are Win only, even though VP apparently has a MAME flavor available. Anybody here able to confirm there's no Mac support at the moment?
posted by mwhybark at 8:32 PM on January 22, 2010


This old AskMe thread looks worth reviewing.
posted by mwhybark at 8:37 PM on January 22, 2010


Littlewing appears to remain active.
posted by mwhybark at 8:44 PM on January 22, 2010


schoolgirl report: I'm fairly certain that the Move Your Car sequence was from the Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D game.

If you're ever in Las Vegas, take some time to get off the strip and stop by the Pinball Museum (it's across the street from the Liberace museum). It's essentially a gigantic pinball arcade with lots and lots of playable pinball games all kept in good running condition. Almost every pinball game I or my father have ever played is there, going back about as far as you can without getting rid of the flippers. They've even got a two-player simultaneous head-to-head game where the players play at opposite sides of the machine.


Personal favorites:

Pinbot - Lots of good memories learning to play pinball from my father on this one. It's just so satisfying to get that multiball locked.
N O W . I . S E E . Y O U !
Addams Family (provided all the flippers are functioning properly) - It sometimes feels like it's got too much going on all at once, but it's still lots of fun to play, and it's got great personality. "The Mamushka I still remember when I realized you could lock the second ball in the swamp with a limp plunger shot. "Straight to the vault!" I felt like the "It's Cousin Itt!" sequence cursed me to lose the ball almost immediately, whether I was trying to hit Itt or not. I think the frantic music just panicked me. "Why thank you, thing!"


Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D - I like the variety of different things you have to do to activate multiball. "How about a K I S S?" It gave the game a cohesion that a lot of other modern games who pack all the various challenges as either optional things or bonus games that you activate (a la the electric chair in Addams Family). "MOVE YOUR CAR!" There were also a few good hidden gimmicks, like the dual plunger shot option (one based on timing, and one on precision), sneaking in the "back door", and strangling the little animated snack bar operator. "The snack bar is now open for your convenience."
posted by ErWenn at 8:46 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only pinball game i ever played regularly was Pinbot, because it was in the dorm lounge where I lived in college for three years.

Oh, yes Pinbot. I delivered Pizzas from a shop that was inside a bowling alley that had Pinbot in it. I'd end up spending all my tips on that machine while I waited for orders.
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 PM on January 22, 2010


SHOWTIME!
posted by vicx at 9:09 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry mwhybark, but you are correct, no Mac support. The MAME aspect of VP just refers to integration with pinMAME, which lets you run the real ROMs with your simulated table. The programs themselves are Windows only and closed source (last time I investigated).

There is a Gottlieb version of the Pinball Hall of Fame game as well, but I've heard bad reports.
posted by ecurtz at 9:12 PM on January 22, 2010


I personally loved Bride of Pinbot, maybe even more than Funhouse. I didn't consciously understand the object of the game when I was a kid, but I must have subconsciously, because it always made me blush.
posted by queensissy at 9:56 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I need to dig up some new rubber pieces for our machine. We've got a Bally Flip-Flop machine, which is awesome fun to play. Four flippers, and four flip targets that run the bonus up. The rubber pieces that go around the bottom islands that kick the ball back rotted out. I really wish pinball machines were easier to find around town.
posted by azpenguin at 10:25 PM on January 22, 2010


vicx: Now you've done it!
posted by aubilenon at 10:28 PM on January 22, 2010


Heh, nice FPP. I grew up on pinball -- Loooooved it as a kid in the 70's. I've always been partial to the old school Bally games. My all time favorite game was Bally's Paragon - man, was that game fun. This post sure makes me wish I could find one to play this weekend.
posted by mosk at 12:36 AM on January 23, 2010


I knew 80% of those facts.

"I've been teabaggin' Rudy," was his strange response. For those not familiar, "Rudy" is an animatronic head inside the machine. If you manage to shoot a pinball into his open mouth you score a million points.

Actually it depends. If you strike Rudy in the jaw it awards a "Rudy Hit," which adds cumulative end-of-ball bonus throughout the game. Rudy talks during the game, and if the ball happens to get in his mouth randomly it scores a "Rudy Gulp," which is similar but worth more.

When two balls are locked for Multiball, Rudy is asleep with his mouth wide open, snoring. Shooting a ball into his mouth triggers one of the most hilarious moments in the game, and also begins Multiball. During Multiball, shooting the Hidden Hallway (which is NOT Rudy's mouth, but is a similar shot) scores "Million Plus," (2M for first, +1M for each additional shot during multiball). There is also an award that can be lit that scores a million points for hitting Rudy, but that doesn't care if it goes in his mouth or not.

They've even got a two-player simultaneous head-to-head game where the players play at opposite sides of the machine.

That is Joust, I believe.

Addams Family is excellent and wonderful. I think I like Twilight Zone a little more. That machine has so many amazing features it kind of puts all other pinball machines to shame. Also great is Attack From Mars (which has the most difficult wizard mode requirement that I've ever personally accomplished, a total of one time).

I would love to see a virtual Addams Family, and something like the Williams collection for at LEAST Bally, for that matter.

Back in the N64 era, IGN reported a couple of times that Rare had in development in-house an excellent recreation of Addams Family Pinball running on N64 hardware. I presume they were never able to get rights to release it. A lot of classic 90s Williams machines are tricky with rights, since most of them were based off of a licensed property. Twilight Zone also uses the song "Twilight Zone" by Golden Earring for game music, which is another level of negotiations and royalities to swim through.

Williams Hall of Fame is nice, yes, but it is not perfect. The games are recreations of the tables, but they emulate no code, and there are small but significant differences in the game's behavior, which is sometimes felt in misimplemented rulesets. Usually it takes someone with a lot of experience on the tables to notice, but they are noticeable. One example that comes to mind, in Funhouse, the second-stage multiball prep music doesn't play entirely, it just loops the first few seconds over and over. Rudy's quotes are a lot more repetitive there as well, to the point of being annoying. They also ditched the game's match animations, attract modes and scoreboards.

I love the idea of the Twilight Zone one -- a board filled with magnets to warp the ball's path, except for on the random occasions when you happened to get the ceramic ball that was not only lighter and faster, but non-magnetic?

That ball was called the Powerball, and it was ceramic, yes, and slightly larger than the other pinballs.

Twilight Zone did contain magnets (contrary to popular belief few games use them on the playfield), but it used them to HELP the player, not hinder him. Because the electromagnetic properties of the ball were different, the game could tell when it was in a scoop, and from there figure out if the ball was in play. All scoring was doubled with the Powerball. Amazingly, if you managed to get the ball in play during Multiball and scored a jackpot with it, it could tell if the ball that scored it was the Powerball, and doubled it in that case only! The real best use for the Powerball however was launching it up the right orbit to load it into the Gumball Machine, in order to start Powerball Mania, another multiball mode with its own valuable jackpots.

The best thing about Twilight Zone of all, however, was LOST IN THE ZONE, the first in a long line of everything-is-lit, invulnerable-six-ball-multiball wizard modes. It is like watching a robot go insane.

I'd been rocking the Wii version for years (the Nunchuck/WiiMote combo works great), but the PS3/360 versions give you HD visuals (Rudy from Funhouse has never looked better) and three new tables -- Arabian Nights, Medieval Madness (featuring voiceover work from Tina Fey!) and the post-Caddyshack title No Good Gofers.

Those are good tables, and NGG is an underrated game, but A. I HATE that they discriminated against Wii players by not giving them those tables -- I ordered the game off of Amazon just to make sure I got it, and now I feel cheated -- and B. where is Attack From Mars??

Start Trek:TNG - God I loved this game. Getting the Warp Factor into the 9.x's was incredibly intense.

That is possibly the best use of the Star Trek license of all time. They got most of the show's cast to provide voices, and it all gels really well. There is something about tilting and being told by Worf "You have NO HONOR!"
posted by JHarris at 3:17 AM on January 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


There is a Gottlieb version of the Pinball Hall of Fame game as well, but I've heard bad reports.

Correct. I've played the Wii and PSP versions, neither of which are any good. The camera is poor and there is very little fun to be had.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:52 AM on January 23, 2010


McSweeny's current column (mentioned above) concerns a detailed description of playing Funhouse with the teabaggable Rudy (also mentioned above).
posted by telstar at 6:13 AM on January 23, 2010


Okay quick story about my life with pinball. When I was young, my father went to work in Africa for six months and left me with my mother and a pinball machine. It had four flippers and buttons on the front for 1P, 2P, 3P, 4P, instead of a coin slot. I knew other people with pinball machines, but never saw another one like it - they all had to use a key to open the door and ring up their own credits. That was 1981. I played a lot.
In 1995, I moved to St. Louis and started tending bar downtown, getting off work late at night, and having nowhere to go but nightclubs in the area. I found a place on the riverfront called Boomer's, which was a hopping joint whose kitchen stayed open late. I fell in love with their crab rangoon and their Twilight Zone pinball machine.
Not knowing anyone in town, I'd head over several nights of the week and eat cheap appetizers and practice some pinball. I got good enough that I could play until I was tired on one credit. Twilight Zone cycles through high scores, noting 1st-3rd place, but above 1st place was "Grand Champion". That was me.
Things I learned too late:
1) Crab Rangoon is traditional Chinese take-out fare - it wasn't exclusive to Boomer's. Though I'd lived in Florida, Texas, and California, I'd never heard of it. Meanwhile, I always went all the way to a nightclub to get it. When my mom flew into town, I didn't really have to take her there to show her some crazy cool food. It's everywhere, and I'm sick of it.
2) Nobody, and especially nobody, cares about your high score on pinball, especially at a nightclub.
3) There are infinitely better ways to meet new people in a new city. I met them.

That said, I love the game, am sad to see how few machines there are anymore, and have a hard time swallowing anyone ever seeing it as a game of chance (since flippers). I love the fact that it's a rewarding game, in that the better I am, the longer I can play, and the more extra balls, or even games, I can earn.
posted by hypersloth at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2010


Cool post. I didn't know most of this stuff.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:22 AM on January 23, 2010


I PWND the Terminator2 and the Getaway High Speed 2 at my local Gas/Burger joint in the early 90's. good times.
posted by HyperBlue at 10:24 AM on January 23, 2010


JHarris, that was an epic response. To what do you owe your ecyclopedic knowledge of the silverball scene?
posted by mwhybark at 10:30 AM on January 23, 2010


For some online playing, the pinball on the Altoids site is fun.
posted by quoththeraven at 11:42 AM on January 23, 2010


i played this machine, endlessly, at the horseshoe tavern during the 90's... ahhh the good old days! thanks for this post!
posted by h0p3y at 11:54 AM on January 23, 2010


So, those seven things I posted above were mostly from when my college hosted David Silverman and his National Pinball Museum. It was nominally through the art school, and I was taking an art history class at the time, so I got to see his lecture, which included a lot of info on backglass artists (though I've forgotten most of their names). The coolest part was that the art museum there was packed with all these pinball games, and Silverman set them up to play for free.

I loved the Twilight Zone and Creature from the Black Lagoon, thought that Big Bang Bar wasn't balanced all that well (too easy to keep getting the tube dancer bonus; too hard to get much else. Also, the ball lock kept failing). I was surprised at a lot of the super-wide cabinets, and disappointed by weird mechanics in a lot of classic games (the small flippers on a lot of '70s stuff made it feel much more luck based).

I think my favorite of those was actually Whitewater, since I'm a big sucker for those spinning pools. I spent hours playing that, racking up free game after free game.
posted by klangklangston at 1:28 PM on January 23, 2010


Thanks for the Internet Pinball Database link; snagged a bunch of choice artwork which will soon be adorning my walls.

(gets ready for a PS3 round of Pinbot and Space Shuttle)
posted by porn in the woods at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2010


Twilight Zone cycles through high scores, noting 1st-3rd place, but above 1st place was "Grand Champion". That was me.

Did you make Lost In The Zone Champion? It's a special scoreboard entry on that game for the player who earns the highest score during a single wizard mode. TZ also had, on default settings, a special scoreboard for buy-in scores.

Pinball buy-in was weird, it was a short-lived attempt to make pinball more profitable by allowing players to continue, as in video games, by buying one extra ball. But it was ONE extra ball, so it was usually a gyp unless an extra ball, special or wizard mode was lit on the table. (Which in retrospect was probably the idea, to carrot players into buying the ball only some of the time to collect pending awards.)

To what do you owe your ecyclopedic knowledge of the silverball scene?

The same thing that I owe my knowledge of video games, namely, I am hyper-interested in them, and with that interest comes obsessive focus and memory. That and the internet, and playing on GSU's pinball machines back when they had them, and reading collections of pinball rulesheets.

I wish I could call upon that kind of focus at will, but it doesn't seem to work that way.
posted by JHarris at 5:10 PM on January 23, 2010


"reading collections of pinball rulesheets."

I stand amazed, and pleased to have access to your knowledge.
posted by mwhybark at 6:01 PM on January 23, 2010


JHarris: They've even got a two-player simultaneous head-to-head game where the players play at opposite sides of the machine.

That is Joust, I believe.

Addams Family is excellent and wonderful. I think I like Twilight Zone a little more. That machine has so many amazing features it kind of puts all other pinball machines to shame. Also great is Attack From Mars (which has the most difficult wizard mode requirement that I've ever personally accomplished, a total of one time).


So I went and looked it up on the Hall of Fame museum's website, and it's actually Challenger.

Twilight Zone is another favorite of mine, but like Addams Family, it was a game that could become extremely frustrating when not kept in good condition. Some games you could play if one of the extra flippers wasn't triggering at full strength, but on others, life just got difficult.

I also enjoyed the Star Trek: the Next Generation game, but the lack of a real plunger always put me off.
posted by ErWenn at 9:01 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really interesting FPP. I asked a question about inline gaming machines a while ago which was answered by Pinback (eponysomethingorother!) and it appears that these flipperless pinball machines which were a part of life in RSL's and sporting clubs in Queensland, Australia before pokies (slot machines) became legal had been around for a long time. Thanks to everyone for giving me some more insight into this.
posted by h00py at 10:20 PM on January 23, 2010


ErWenn:

This got me curious about what I remembered. Check it out, Joust is like that too!

Some games you could play if one of the extra flippers wasn't triggering at full strength, but on others, life just got difficult.

The machine I played the most of had a very annoying problem where balls would commonly bounce out of the lock lane if not hit at the bare minimum to get up there. It made Multiball (and extra balls) very difficult to score. Otherwise the machine was great though. The people who took care of GSU's pinball machines usually knew their stuff, although once in a while a machine would develop a problem that would persist for months. About halfway through its stint there, the Attack From Mars machine developed a problem that would intermittently cause the right orbit to stop registering shots, which made reaching Total Annihilation and getting the Super Jackpot in Multiball impossible when it was happening, and with it also make Rule The Universe (another awe-inspiring wizard mode) impossible to achieve.
posted by JHarris at 1:38 AM on January 24, 2010


Way back in the depths of time, my grandfather paid is way through art school by playing pinball. Good return on that, he retired a designer at GM.

Myself, I only ever was good on one machine, and it was an ugly one at a pizzeria near my house. But I love pinball anyway, always have. I have some odd fascination with rolling balls. Billiards and bowling also captivate my attention, or kinetic sculpture featuring balls rolling about (like the one in NYC at Port Authority).
posted by Goofyy at 9:45 AM on January 24, 2010


I miss playing pinball at funland arcade in toronto. The place was long and narrow and about halfway through there was a step up and the place got even narrower. All the modern machines (DDR especially) were down in the front area, but the back area had TONS of pinball machines (some of which, I have learned from this thread, were classics or rare machines) and stuff like ms pac man and galaga and even a super mario brothers arcade machine. We called the raised area with all the pinball machines "the eighties". As in "where's dave? his quarter's up on DDR extreme?" "oh, he's in the eighties on the playboy cab again"
posted by tehloki at 3:25 PM on January 24, 2010


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